It looks like an elongated Star Trek phaser, but the Akai EWI4000S is actually a brand-new MIDI wind controller. New digital instruments for wind players (like the Yamaha WX5) are fairly rare; it’s nice to see something fresh. And the Akai has plenty of features that suggest it’s worth a look:

  • MIDI controller: Touch-sensitive keys, a breath sensor, and integrated MIDI output for connecting to your computer or outboard gear
  • Built-in sound: The instrument is also an analog-modeling synth with dual oscillators and dual filters, editable from a Mac or PC. Filter sweep is controllable with breath pressure.
  • Built-in effects: Adding to its usefulness as a standalone instrument, the Akai includes reverb, delay, and chorus.

  • And it all runs on AA batteries, with stereo output to line or headphone jacks. The choice of analog modeling is intriguing, but with breath control you could also hook up to a physical-modeling synth from Yamaha or in software. Due this quarter for about US$1000.

    Pictured below, a glimpse of an unrelated wind controller: the MIDI saxophone. I don’t play sax, but the demos made it seem expressive.

    Oh, yeah, and Akai was showing their new MPC, but we’re all laptop users here, right? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)